Thursday, January 21, 2010

it's on the horizon: school and early bird specials

There's been a lot of discussion around our house, lately. Because as it turns out, we have three five-year-olds who are eligible to start kindergarten this year. (Must. Choke. Down. The. Sob.)


Now I'm still of the strong mindset that I'd like to home school the children. But since I work during the day, I don't know how that's possible. Unless my husband wanted to home school them. And whenever the topic has come up, he's said things like, "No way. No how. Bye Bye Kids. You're going to SCHOOL."

While Charlie and I agree on a lot of topics, this is just one where we don't see eye to eye.

(Other topics? He loves coffee. I think it tastes like burnt tar. He thinks documentary films are fascinating. I think documentary films are a great cure for insomnia.)

When I was working part-time, I really enjoyed 'homeschooling' the kids on different activities. And while Charlie does spend time each day working with them, he just doesn't possess the same kind of zeal. For instance, the daily calendar that I was doing everyday with the kids? My husband hadn't done that in several months. So when I picked it up the other day and clapped my hands together and said, "Children! Children! We're going to work on our calendar!" they looked at me as if I was speaking French.

My fears were confirmed that our kids had lost some of what they learned when I started working through the weekdays with them. "OK guys. Monday, Tuesday ... what comes next?"

William pipes up, "MARCH!"

Charlie cringed before adding, "Yeah. BUT. He thought Fast Food Nation was captivating!"

I've thought about this long and hard and I've decided the primary reason(s) I want to keep the children home is/are because I love spending time with them and I think that they will learn perfectly well under my tutelage. And I would like for them to have a relaxed academic experience and environment with lots of time to play and experiment and learn just by living.

We'll tour museums. And travel. And explore. And it will be so much fun.


Until they drive me crazy. Which would never happen. Because I live in a dream world.

Besides, I'd much rather they be socialized by me, than by children the same age as them.

Have you spent much time with five-year-olds lately?

They are a wild, crazy and totally goofy bunch. Especially the little boy, Daniel, in their basketball class. The child climbs OFF the walls and draws other kids in to his insanity, while his mom sits with her nose buried in a magazine. And I get so fed up that I start SIGHING loudly and shoot my children menacing looks. Neither helps much.

But mostly, these kids are growing up so darn fast, I'm genuinely afraid I'll send them off to school and the next thing I know, they'll be packing their bags and heading off to college. Because it really does happen that fast. I have vivid memories of being five-years-old and in just over 11 years, I'll be eligible for the AARP. I told Charlie that he would be eligible in just over six years, or approximately 2000 days, and my gentle husband told me to zip it.

(True Story.)

Anyway, the point is, I'm filled with remorse about sending our children off to school. Although, it does make my heart feel a tiny bit better knowing that since we didn't send them last year, they will be among the oldest kids in the class. And most likely the biggest.


Which might come in handy if anyone tells them that their parents are old.


  1. Do you have a choice about sending your kids to kindergarten at age four or five? I'm just curious how it works. Here in Ontario, Canada, "junior kindergarten" (JK) starts at age 4 (or, turning 4 that calendar year, so kids with September-December birthdays start age age 3), and then they go to "senior kindergarten" (SK) the next year.

    I'm a teacher, and I'm always baffled trying to figure out how it works in the USA -- it seems sometimes so different from here. We had an American boy in a kindergarten class I volunteered in a couple of years ago; he was SK age, but in the JK class because the parents knew they were moving back to the USA the next year, and they wanted him to be age-wise the same as his peers in the States, who started school at age 6.

    (Also here, most of the JK and SK classes are combined grade classes, not separate JK and SK classrooms, just slightly different expectations and they call it "The Kindergarten Program" and the students are to achieve the curriculum by "the end of two years" -- which means their report card in JK is just about them working towards their goals and adjusting to the school environment and the demonstration of social skills).

    Oh, and also... technically Kindergarten is still "optional" here and kids can start grade one at age 6 without Kindergarten -- but I think that it's incredibly rare for any parent to do this, because now the curriculum is quite vigorous for JK/SK and the kids would be very far behind by grade one unless their parents did lots of home-school training (for example, kids already have all the basic reading skills down when they head into grade one as that's a huge purpose of JK/SK, or else they end up with 'reading recovery' in grade one for extra help with a specialized reading instructor -- so a home-schooled child who skipped kindergarten MAY be quite behind in this area).

  2. I think your children will do awesome in School! My 5 year old starts this year too. She can't wait. I'm reserving judgement

  3. Wow! Cute kids. The other kids look like toddlers compared to your three! They definitely won't have any issues standing up to any meanies in the class.

    I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I love your blog. Love it, love it, love it. It's my absolute favorite. You write so well and make me laugh a laugh. Your style is so captivating. Plus, it doesn't hurt that all 4 of your kiddos are as cute as can be!

    Thanks for letting me be a part of your lives!

    --Laura in Indiana

  4. HAHA! That picture looks like my DD in her kindy class. She is that much taller than her classmates, she's a head taller than a girl who is two months older than her! Oh, well, it runs in the family!

    Good luck with your decision, Jen!

  5. Would that we could give our children The Perfect Life, at every stage of their development. Life/reality/the world does not work that way. With the famous sentiment about having the serenity to accept things you cannot change in mind, I say stop beating yourself up, my dear. You'll make the decision that is right for your family and finances--whatever you finally determine that is--and then move on. Serenity.

    I get the feeling that ultimately that's what you're battling with this days, across all of your posts. You want a sense of serenity that is eluding you. Serenity is a state of mind, and thus it's attainable despite *almost* any circumstances--certainly those circumstances we in middle class America can claim. Now, were we in, say, Haiti, I wouldn't dare suggest that serenity is so attainable. But then, that's a different topic entirely, isn't it? We're talking homeschooling versus public schooling, not where you can find a pottable cup of water for your now homeless children. Maybe recent events in the world are making me obnoxiously philosophical about what we take for granted here, but I know your family personally and well, and I say: You are a strong, loving, and supportive family with the means to choose from two options that are both privileged compared to the rest of the world's population, and your children are smart as whips and good little people; they will fare well in either environment. Rejoice in their good fortune--for they do have very good lives--and the amazing potential for their happy futures.

    Now, I'll get down off my soapbox before someone pushes me.


  6. Could you have sent them last year? What is the cutoff in California? In Ohio it's August 1, so they could not have gone, but they'd still be one of the older ones.
    Just curious.
    Laura (Ohio)

  7. Debbie, I think I'm very serene. I've come to terms with things the way that they are - and I'm OK with it. EXCEPT, I am loving this age and I'm very sad at the prospect of the kids going to school. I'm going to miss them - a lot - and it's just a big milestone for them. And me. Charlie's ready. I'm not. I hope the things I'm writing don't come across like I'm wallowing in pity! Geez. That's depressing.

    Laura in OH, if they turned five by 12/1 they could have enrolled last year (2009). But, my philosophy has always been, I'd rather have them be the among the older kids in the class than among the younger. AND, even though they've caught up, developmentally as a result of being born 10 weeks early, if they had been born when they were DUE to be born, it would have been the end of December. Hence, the reason I felt further justified holding them back a bit.

    Laura in IN, you've totally made my day!

  8. Debbie: My original response to you was much too abrupt.

    But I'm going to be blunt: this whole "passage of time, my babies are growing up and I'm growing older" thing is kicking my ass.

    I'm not ready for them to go away to school and be socialized by the outside world. I see what happens to a lot of kids when they go to school and I don't want that to happen to OURS.

    I'm bummed that in recent months, I've been working so much I don't even have the opportunity to take off for a midweek visit to the zoo when the rest of the world is going at it. And once school starts, they'll be gone all day - so when will I ever have that opportunity again?

    That makes me cry.

    Charlie says one of the great joys in life is to watch your children grow and be independent outside of their parents. I want for our children to be independent, too. I just don't want them to go to school. Yet.

    Yes, both Charlie and I have work options, but to live in THIS country with the standards to which we've become accustomed, we cannot live on any work option except the one we have, currently. So as much as I would love to, it would be taking too great of a risk for me to resign my position to be a SAHM. Even if we were assured of a consistent potable water source.

    That being said, I do think I'm serene. Or at least I'm trying the best I can. *twitch* *twitch*

  9. Jen, even tho I'm a retired primary teacher, my belief has come to be that the longer time the child can spend at home, the more his/her roots can take solid hold in the home.

    As you know, I think you are marvelous parents and provide so many wonderful experiences for your children....but working full time doesn't give you the choices you would like to consider.

    Do you have half day kindergarten in SD or is it full day?? I personally think full day is a long time for five year olds to be confined. If they could go to half day kindergarten, perhaps you (or Charlie)could have the best of both worlds--school experience, but the fun exploring kind of adventures you provide!

    I was like you in that I had to work, but would have loved to have had the chance to home school my kids--but you know, they turned out okay! I did have to recover from shock when my baby went to first grade and came home with a new vocabulary of all the words we didn't use at home!!

    I know you will make the right decision...and if you change your mind eventually, then do it. I did choose Christian High School for them when they got to that age...and it proved to be a wonderful, expensive experience.

    I'll be following this next step in your lives!!

  10. You're not alone Jen. I consider myself to be someone who is pretty much at peace with my life on most days. I count my blessings daily and often am struck by the fact that I was blessed with twins after infertility. BUT, blessings and comparisons to tragedy (thinking of the people in Haiti has jolted me out of any self-pitty lately) not withstanding, I will likely shed many tears when my 4 y.o. son and dtr. start kindergarten. They have Nov. b-days so like yours, they'll be some of the oldest in the class. (Btw, a former teacher/colleague of mine said if you asked a room full of teachers, they'd all say the same thing: they'd rather have them be the older kids in the class rather than the youngest).

    I'm just going to miss mine so much also, as I love these more carefree days at home. It is quite a milestone. People say the time really flies once they start school. But, after infertility I told myself I would not complain that it goes fast, and just be glad to have the chance at all. ;) -Karen

  11. Karen, I think the whole struggle with infertility has definitely compounded the feelings that I'm having NOW. I waited so long to be a mom ... SO LONG ... the thought of sending my babies off to school is especially bittersweet. But not so much "sweet" as "bitter."

    Joan, that is the EXACT point I was just trying to make to Charlie. The longer time the child can spend at home, the more his/her roots can take solid hold in the home. So what if we keep them home the first few years? I am more than confident that IF we went them to school with any "deficiencies" they would quickly catch up.

    Chances are, if we held them back a few years - they would go to school more confident in who they are - where they come from - and have a much better understanding of the world around them. My ULTIMATE dream is to take off for at least a year and travel with our children around the world. There are so many things I want to expose them to and I feel like I've got such a short period of time to do it.

    My gosh, in 13 years - they'll be going off to college. That time will go SO fast.

    Now, regarding your experience with a Christian highschool - you say it proved to be a wonderful, expensive experience. Did you mean "EXTENSIVE"?

    Or, should I start buying lotto tickets? :)

  12. Joan here--no I meant expensive!! It cost a bundle on a teacher's salary, but it was worth every penny is took.

    My 16 year old grandson is in a Christian School this year, and I'm helping his folks pay for it, as I think, for him, its a must. His 15 year old sister remains in public school and for her its a perfect fit.

    You know if you choose to keep them home for a few years, just get them reading and aware of math. I would purchase a handwriting book for them as that is one thing kids really need to be taught. (forming letters correctly, etc.) But you know, none of these things have to be taught every day. I can't believe I'm saying this as I always was a firm believer in structure in learning, but honestly old age has really loosened me up!! I say let them be children and free spirits as long as they can be!

  13. So I totally get your babies going to school and being sad. I feel that same way. My husband wants me to home school.I'm with your way, jose!
    My son is a November baby...I'm so thankful that I chose that Joel be the older kid in class. He was more advanced academically than the others so I had to stay in communication with the teacher (it just doesn't get done otherwise), but he developed great confidence. Emotionally my son has always been a late bloomer, so I believe that if he were in the older grade I think he still would have gravitated towards friends in the grade that he is in now. The educational options of being more advanced (or not) is way easier once they get to middle school and high school because of various levels of math and english. (I'm going to brag now..Joel passed 3 AP tests his sophomore year with a test grade of "4" and he's taking 3 more AP's this year.... I am SO PROUD! BUT ...WHEW! it hasn't been easy!)
    When my teen started kindergarten, I didn't look at him going to school as fulfillment of his academic education. We did lots of extracurricular academic activities at home. I wasn't hardcore. I was a single parent at the time with a full time job, but still...I made the effort.

    Volunteering in the classroom is key. It provides invaluable information of what the teacher is like, what type of personalities appeal to your child and how your child fairs compared to the other kids in the class. I also believe that, "I volunteer so that I can complain." Being in a good school district helps though....

    My parents thought "public school was evil", but it was really hard for me to believe that when so many of my close friends graduated from college and became public school teachers.

    Public school, private school, homeschool...I just don't think there is one perfect thing that is going to meet everyone's needs. Keeping your kids engaged is hard. Pushing them to their potential is hardwork, and geez, getting them to do their homework???? The worst!
    Its all work....every option...lots of blood,sweat and tears at the parent's end......Argh!
    Good Luck!

  14. I just wanted to thank you for your honesty about how infertility has affected your feelings about kids going off to school.

    My twins have a fall birthday as well, and I'm having a tough time thinking about sending them off to school in the fall (they'll be five in Sept). After our struggles to have children, it makes me sad to think about sending them out the door five days a week already! I really appreciate hearing that others have felt that way too.
    It constantly amazes me how these feelings from infertility struggles can keep popping up for me.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  15. Did you not live through all the horror and angst I had at sending mine off to school?

    They are fine. They LOVE it. I just had 20 of their very bestfriends over for their party because I send them to school. They are growing up with kids that live by us and whose parents I truly enjoy.

    They grow up no matter what, even if you don't send them to school.